19 November 2019

This week, founders René Hol and Marlène Verburg are part of Slush 2019. Through this blog, Marlène will share their experiences and you can stay up-to-date about their experiences. This blog will be extended each day.

Ready for take off!

Past September we got the opportunity to be part of Slush 2019 through the mission of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and Novel-T. Of course, this was an opportunity we did not want to miss. My co-founder René and I are part of this multi-day event in Helsinki. A unique opportunity for us to meet partners, investors and other startups and to introduce the Nordic countries to our unique management control tool for manufacturing companies. These countries are an important industrial player which makes them very interesting for us.

Since September we have been preparing. Multiple press releases have been published, we had preparational master classes, made appointments through the Slush matchmaking tool, registered for interesting side events, and orientated ourselves on all the cool speakers Slush offers. By now, the preparations are finished and our suitcases are packed. We are ready for takeoff and looking forward to interesting and inspiring days!

Tuesday: Twente kick-off

One of the most important contributions of Novel-T to this trip is that they arranged the flights and accommodation for us. Therefore, the whole Twente delegation met each other early yesterday morning (Tuesday) for our trip to Helsinki. We got to know the rest better with a cup of coffee; the other Twente startups (CodeSandbox, Fluidensity, PESCHECK, SeriousVR and Swipeguide), the students attending the entrepreneurship honours programme at the University of Twente, and the Novel-T team. The people of Novel-T, including Gilles Meijer and Thomas Mensink of the Golden Egg Check, accompany us these days for organizational matters, but definitely also to give advice and make sure we get the most out of Slush.

After a good flight, we got a warm welcome with a cup of coffee and traditional Finnish chocolate. We got a short briefing and some hours to ourselves. Then, it was time for the Novel-T kick-off event in the evening. Thomas started the event with a live of recording of the At the Money-podcast, which sparked an interesting discussion about the future of Venture Capital (VC) in Europe. He was joined by panel members from Microsoft for startups, Nordic VCs and Dutch VCs. Important themes included increasing diversity in investments (including gender and ethnicity) and the differences between the VC-ecosystem in Europe and the US. The podcast will be live soon and then you can listen to the whole discussion.

The time was ripe for burgers and beer after the recording. We had the time to talk to the participants of the podcast and the Twente delegation and get more acquainted. This allowed us for example to hear more about the interesting business ideas the students had. Twente has brought an inspiring group of people and we look forward to represent Twente together with them the upcoming days.

Wednesday: The Dutch spirit!

Despite Slush starting officially tomorrow, today (Wednesday) we still had enough to do. One of the official side events of Slush is Founders Day. Today, I had the opportunity to be there. The programme amongst others contained an interesting discussion about how to include your team when scaling up. It’s interesting to see how different organizations handle this, which also confirms that there is not one way of doing things (right).

After Founders day, we attended the official kick-off event of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (NEA) in collaboration with Techleap and the Dutch embassy in Finland. All companies participating in the NEA-mission as well as a lot of other Dutch start-ups were present to show the Dutch spirit. Not only did we have engaging conversations with Finnish companies, VCs and network organization, but there were also some interesting speakers. This included prince Constantijn (see picture), the city Helsinki, the largest start-up campus in the Nordics (Maria 01, 20,000m2 of start-ups), the umbrella organisation of Finnish VCs and the person responsible for the collaboration with start-ups at Konecranes (one of the largest manufacturing companies in Finland).

During the event we got a clear picture of the Finnish ecosystem for start-ups. Maybe even more interesting for us, was the confirmation of and information about Finland as a real industrial country. Finland is a pioneer in many technologies and has many leading manufacturing companies. We are happy that this event gave us an extensive introduction in the industry.

In the evening, we first had dinner with several participating companies of the NEA-delegation. Then, we joined the bowling event of The Next Web. It is inspiring to see how many side events and network meetings are organized in Helsinki around Slush. Therefore, we look forward with a lot of enthusiasm and confidence to the start of Slush tomorrow!

Thursday: Slush has started!

Today was the day, Slush is officially started! After an impressive opening show, the Techleap lounge was opened (see picture). The Techleap lounge is a booth of Dutch parties, amongst which the NEA. As part of the NEA mission, we are allowed use this booth for our appointments during these days and enjoy the great free coffee.

After the official openings, it was time to discover Slush. We had an engaging schedule of speakers, meetings, side events and visiting booths of partners and start-ups. What’s great about the Slush is that it offers a great mix of interesting themes for start-ups, like scalability and fundraising, and an extensive offering of other substantive themes. There were also a lot of interesting parties and side-events for the manufacturing industry.

The conversations with professionals in the manufacturing industry confirmed our vision that digitization and technology initiatives have to be driven from a business perspective and supported by top management. They also verified the difficulty of this task for (medium-sized) manufacturing companies. It is barely possible to oversee the rewards and impact. To really get change going and to effectively use technologies, the whole picture should be discussed, and the business case should be clear to the top management. It is very inspiring to talk to so many parties (large industrial companies, technology suppliers, investors and other start-ups) that all believe in our mission and approach. Their experiences and insight also inspired us with ideas to support the manufacturing industry even better in the future.

It was a fruitful day at Slush. In the evening, the networking continued at the karaoke event of the Startup Alliance Europe. The Netherlands was well represented, both on and besides the stage. During the event we met a lot of start-ups from various countries and exchanged experiences. Slush is an event for start-ups. That makes it fun for us, as we encounter many like-minded people both during the official programme and during side events.

Time for the last day of Slush!

Friday: Last but not least

Today was the second and last day of Slush. However, the last day was definitely not the least. The day had a strong start through breakfast events. I was at the Female Founders breakfast, a meeting for hundred female founders and investors, to exchange thoughts about funding and female entrepreneurship. April Underwood, former CPO of Slack and co-founder of investment group #Angels, gave a keynote speech. The European tech report, that was released at Slush, reported that 92% of the funding is granted to companies with only male founders. Therefore, it was interesting to have an event where female entrepreneurs could discuss the reasons, and how we can make sure that the number of female entrepreneurs (that get funding) increases.

While I was at the Female Founders breakfast, René joined the breakfast event organized by the NEA and the Dutch embassy in Finland. The theme for this breakfast was sustainability, an important theme at Slush. Using the UN sustainable development goals, Dutch companies gave a pitch about who they are and how they contribute to a sustainable society. Mobina IT pursues goal #9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Our tool stimulates manufacturing companies to purposefully design their processes, especially in the areas engineering – creating sustainable products, production – use of energy efficient processes – and HR – putting the human central in the organization. It builds confidence that so much attention is given to sustainability, especially at events like Slush. These changes in culture and society eventually make the difference.

After breakfast, we had the opportunity to take part in the side event Next 100. Six large industrial companies (Kone, Wärtsilä, Scania, Saab, Stora Enso and the Husqvarna group) gave more insight in their collaboration with start-ups and their most important themes. It was a unique experience to see how open these companies were about their problems and their need to collaborate with start-ups. An important reason for this need is the pace at which innovations and industry develop. It is impressive to see how these partnerships develop. This group of companies is particularly interesting for Mobina IT. They have the challenge to change in the areas we focus on, especially where companies need to innovate their downstream value chain, we can be invaluable.

In the afternoon, we had the last meetings and some interesting keynotes, among which about the role of the COO in start-ups. There were also many booths of partners and interesting start-ups, representing specific subjects and countries. Luckily, we had some time during Friday afternoon to visit these booths. It is fascinating to see what these start-ups are doing, both substantive and having similar experiences.

At the end of the day we had an evaluation and then it was time for the after-party. The Techleap lounge had silent disco by School of House (see picture), but also the large stages had an impressive line-up. After the drink, we had some time to try a local Finnish delicacy, reindeer. A successful ending of an inspiring week.

Saturday: Time to say goodbye!

After these inspiring days, today is the day to fly back home together with the rest of the Twente delegation. We had an afternoon flight, which gave us the opportunity to calmly talk about all experiences at Slush. We will share the most important findings later through our blog.

Last, we want to sincerely thank Novel-T, NEA, Techleap and the Dutch embassy in Helsinki who helped us as a young company to get the most out of this event. These inspiring days led to a lot of useful contacts, but above all the opportunity to share our message for the management in the manufacturing industry and get a lot of confirmation. We are looking forward to following up on this!

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